“Somebody Else,” The 1975

Artist: The 1975
Song: Somebody Else
Album: I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it
Duration: 5 minutes, 48 seconds

This is a song called “Somebody Else” by The 1975, who are a pop rock band from England. It’s a long song, about 6 minutes overall, and uses influences from 80’s synth to create an immersive space for the audience. In essence, this is a sad song about lost love and the rejection of lust that occurs after. This song works because it operates in continuous contradictions. It’s hypnotic and sensual, yet constantly denies sex. Paired with a catchy beat, the work then uses this dichotomy to explore the power roles in relationships.

As a band, The 1975 questions a lot of societal norms in their songs, and in this instance, the meaning of a relationship. To start, it is intentionally genderless. There is no sexualization of women or men, there are no gendered pronouns, and it’s anonymous. Contradiction plays a role here because the idea of there even being a “somebody else” to a former lover is so non-specific, yet carries so much weight because that person is not you anymore. In removing gender from the love equation, The 1975 create an inclusive, melancholy headspace that everyone can identify with. There’s a pain that you feel in the deliberate pronunciation of the lyrics. You hear that in the line “I’m looking through you / While you’re looking through your phone / And then leaving with somebody else,” which is a universe in itself. All at once, it critiques hookup culture, the distance technology creates between people, and ends in disappointment. It is strikingly vulnerable, especially when considering this is a rock band made of four men.

This deconstruction of masculinity is also evident in the repetition of “I don’t want your body” that you hear in the post chorus. I love that it’s desexualized and that it’s indecisive. It’s repeated as a mode of personal persuasion, trying to convince yourself that you’ve moved on. I find that the idea of “I know what I don’t want” to be immensely relatable, because it’s not a helpful feeling! It’s frustrating because you are forced to question what your expectations and standards are. As a result, these feelings are rarely recognized or discussed because they’re unanswerable questions, and it’s an admission of guilt. No one is ever proud of thinking about their ex again, but it is a necessary and normal step in recovery and the healing process overall. Following a breakup, it is hard work to reconcile the really good memories with the really bad, as exemplified in the line “I’m reminded that I should be gettin’ over it” that is accented by a backing beat.

This song was released in February 2016, and was part of this reinvention of their brand. At this time, they had just introduced a pink neon version of their logo, and instantly created this softer, feminine, romantic visual language. I remember listening to this song being performed live, and what The 1975 does exceptionally is create a space for fans, who are primarily teenage girls, to dance, have fun, and be themselves. The beauty of teenage girl fandom as I’ve experienced it is that it is an independently created space to safely explore sexuality, musical taste, and ask broader questions about parasocial relationships and the impact of celebrity on personal development. I know that fandom and following the music of bands like The 1975 or 5 Seconds of Summer really helped me to develop as an artist and creative, because I was so passionate and encouraged by communities on the internet to do things that I loved, like make lyric posters, and wasn’t told that this music wasn’t “real music” or was ridiculed for it.  

The bridge here plays with that idea of individual pursuit, where he questions “Get someone you love? Get someone you need?”, which surfaces the conventional notions of attachment and relationship necessity. The response, “Fuck that, get money,” is wonderfully angry and honest, and without being violent. Everyone experiences this small voice in the back of their head that says you need to conform to the status quo, but it’s as simple as saying “Fuck that” to make it go away. It’s so universally relatable and millennial in its simplicity. Sure, I might not agree with the motivation to further the capitalist machine as a coping mechanism, but it is one way of reclaiming that power over your life, and investing in yourself.

The last quarter of the song is a repetition of the chorus and a longer musical interlude. The power of this interlude and the ones before are that they are generous. It adds length to the song, but to the credit that they offer space for contemplation, and breathing room. If the question raised is “Do I want you?”, then these moments are the response. It’s not rushed, and there’s no sense of urgency to come to an answer. According to Spotify, I have streamed this more than any other song I’ve ever listened to. It’s appeared on multiple playlists, and I always look forward to it coming on. I think rather than learning something new with each listen, I bring something new to the song every time. The song itself is a canvas for emotion, where you create the characters, setting, and conflict, while the song provides the background story and environment. It’s fun to sing along to, bop your head to, and listen to all the musical details along the way.

One of my favorite lines of this song is “Our love has gone cold / You’re intertwining your soul with somebody else.” It’s not explicit, but it captures such a beautiful sadness in depicting the agony that is any form of breakup. Ending a relationship isn’t meant to be a beautiful or romanticized time, but by considering each contradiction that’s felt along the way, this song validates that ambiguous emotional experience. And in the end, that’s all anyone wants, someone to tell them that their emotions are valid, and to offer a space to move forward, together.

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